A woman who comes from one of McLean County’s most well-known military families is trying to rally support for a passion project honoring local soldiers killed in World War I.
Suzanne Kraus is the niece of John Kraus of Danvers, who died in 1918—one of the first McLean County soldiers to be killed in battle during the war. The Bloomington VFW post is named in his honor.
Suzanne Kraus is one of the organizers of an Adopt-a-Grave program that’s tied to the centennial Armistice Day on Nov. 11. Kraus and the other organizers hope to find people willing to “adopt” graves of WWI soldiers, cleaning and decorating them before Nov. 11. An open house is set for this Sunday to recruit participants.
“My uncle’s been remembered and honored. And I’m concerned by the idea of (others) being forgotten,” said Kraus, who lives in Chicago. Three of her uncles served in World War I.
Kraus and the All Present and Accounted For project have been working for years to identify where all of McLean County’s killed-in-action WWI soldiers are buried. They’ve found 110 soldiers buried in 35 cemeteries in the region. Twenty more are still buried in Europe. One is at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.
Five have never been found.
“With the centennial, if we don’t capture this information now, it’s only going to get harder,” Kraus told GLT. “It’s more fleeting. Something about the centennial brings it up all and everybody’s kind of clued in, but it’s going to quickly dissipate into the memory and into the past.”
During Sunday’s open house, a list of cemeteries and maps will be available for those interested in adopting a grave. (The first step for adopting a grave is finding it, Kraus said. Larger cemeteries have an index, but even then walking the rows may be necessary, she said.) Participants only have to care for the grave through Nov. 11, not beyond that, Kraus said.
Those who adopt are encouraged to clean up the gravesite and headstone, maybe plant some bulbs for next spring, and pick up items (such as a flag) from the VFW post for placement on the graves.
“This was supposed to be the war to end all wars,” Kraus said. “Wouldn’t it be great if it had?”
The Adopt-a-Grave program is a partnership between the VFW post, the All Present and Accounted For project, and the Lexington Genealogical and Historical Society.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that three of Kraus' uncles served in World War I. One was killed in action, not all three.
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